That is the story of Ahmed Mohamed. A teenager who built a clock, hoping to impress his teachers, but ended up scaring his teachers into thinking that he had built a bomb. He ended up being arrested, handcuffed and detained for a short while. Thankfully, no charges will be pressed.
But his story does not end there. After the story broke, President Obama extended an invitation for Ahmed to visit the White House. Then Mark Zuckerberg extended an invitation or Ahmed to visit the Facebook HQ.
And very quickly, Ahmed became the darling of Silicon Valley. Not surprising, considering Steve Wozniak, the other Steve that founded Apple and one of the legends of Silicon Valley, had a similar experience.
From the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, it was revealed that Steve Wozniak got into trouble for building a fake bomb when he was in high school. From the book:
“In twelfth grade [Wozniak] built an electronic metronome—one of those tick-tick-tick devices that keep time in music class—and realized it sounded like a bomb. So he took the labels off some big batteries, taped them together, and put it in a school locker; he rigged it to start ticking faster when the locker opened. Later that day he got called to the principal’s office. He thought it was because he had won, yet again, the school’s top math prize. Instead he was confronted by the police. The principal had been summoned when the device was found, bravely ran onto the football field clutching it to his chest, and pulled the wires off. Woz tried and failed to suppress his laughter. He actually got sent to the juvenile detention center, where he spent the night. It was a memorable experience. He taught the other prisoners how to disconnect the wires leading to the ceiling fans and connect them to the bars so people got shocked when touching them.”
So it turns out that there had been precedence of detaining teenagers for suspicion of building bombs in USA. If Ahmed follows the same trajectory of Steve Wozniak, then it looks like Ahmed is heading in the right direction.
And it does look like Ahmed’s story keeps getting better. Ahmed had expressed that he hopes to attend college in MIT. So in an interview with MSNBC, host Chris Hayes sprung a pleasant surprise on Ahmed. Hayes brought in astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who works for the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the Department of Physics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prescod-Weinstein told Ahmed, “I just want to say, you are my ideal student. A creative, independent thinker like you is the kind of person who should be becoming a physicist. As a theoretical physicist, I would love it if you took an interest in the mathematical side, although you’re clearly very adept with your hands and at building things.”
Prescod-Weinstein then extended an invitation for him to visit MIT and tour the Kavli Institute. As if that was not a pleasant enough surprise, she also told Ahmed that her advisors at Harvard also would like him to take a tour of their astrophysics facilities. It seemed that Ahmed is the kind of student they want at MIT and Harvard.
Hayes then asked if Ahmed would take the invitation. Well, no prizes for guessing Ahmed’s response. He said, “That’s a fact right there.”
So. Parents. If your kid is a prankster, you may not want to berate him. Instead, it might be a good idea to guide that energy and creativity. Who knows, that may the first steps to MIT or Harvard. It may even be the first steps of your kid’s journey to building the next Apple.
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